For most of us, energy awareness began years ago with our mothers yelling at us to close the doors and windows — we’re not air-conditioning the whole neighborhood! Were you born in a barn?
Those basic ideas remain valid, but we live in a more complex and costly environment now. According to Energy.gov, the 115 million homes in the U.S. today collectively use an estimated 22.5% of the country’s energy, and the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on home utility bills. Driven by the huge explosion of available electronic devices and appliances of all types, energy demand has spiked considerably. But technology is also helping better manage those systems and their costs. That’s good, because the number and complexity of systems are only going to increase in coming years. With good planning and the use of energy monitoring and home automation technologies, we can all do our part to close down the valve and reduce the flow of energy consumption.
The most voracious power bandit in the modern home is also its most ubiquitous: the Standby Mode. Used so that most electronics can turn on instantly when needed, LED pilot lights, digital clocks and timers, even inert objects like wall-wart power supplies (heat = power use), are all constantly sucking energy 24/7. Over time, the display on your microwave draws more power than cooking. These energy vampires eat up about 5% of your home's energy use, adding up to more than $5.8 billion annually. The solution: group multiple devices onto smart power strips that can be turned on and off with a single switch. Quality power strips also save money in other ways, by “staging” the power-up of AV components to prevent all-at-once overloads and protecting against utility surges and lightning strikes.
At 2,467 square feet, U.S. homes are getting larger. This average is 11% larger than just a decade ago, even as households have fewer members. The lights and other electronics in all those rooms don’t need to be on all the time. Presence-sensing technologies can address that. Presence detectors use motion sensors to determine if a room is occupied. These can be tied into room lighting and thermostats, and help reduce a room’s energy costs by as much as 50%.
The Shadow Knows
Shades are a simple solution for ambient temperature control. Placing shade screens over windows on the east or west side of a house reduces heat gain by 53%. Automated shading systems introduce a whole new level of control by automatically raising or lowering shades based on parameters including temperature, occupancy or time of day. A calculation using a Heat-Transfer Multiplier (HTM), a measure of energy performance, reveals that the value for a clear east-facing window is 78. Add a 90% shade screen over the window and the HTM drops to 37.
You’re likely aware that sound travels through the air, and that acoustical treatments improve sonic quality for home theaters and offices, but they can also have a healthy effect on energy efficiency. Acoustical door seals are an excellent way to ensure snug closures, help control air flow, and add to overall energy effectiveness.
Welcome to the future. Here are a few more energy- and cost-saving ideas for areas of the increasingly connected life that may soon be part of yours.
Show How Much You Car
Electric automobiles are still a tiny fraction of cars on the road but their sales grew 60 percent worldwide last year, and electric vehicles are predicted to account for 35% of new car sales globally by 2040. As of 2016, there were 12,203 charging stations across the U.S, but home is where the charger will be. There are currently no DOE efficiency ratings for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) products. The big difference now is between Level 1 and Level 2 products. Level 1 equipment charges through a 120-volt standard household outlet, and charging generally takes 8 to 12 hours to completely charge a depleted battery. Level 2 equipment charges through a 240-volt AC plug and a dedicated 40-amp circuit but charging generally takes only 4 to 6 hours.
Do We Use An AAAAAAAAA Battery?
The whole-house battery is in its infancy. Electric car maker Tesla sells its 10 kWh (kiloWatt-hours) PowerWall for about $5,000, which could keep all your home systems running full bore for three to five hours, enough to get you through a typical power outage, and longer if you’re careful. You can achieve similar results now on a more limited scale with quality high-end UPS units dedicated to key systems in the home. Getting continuous battery power for an entire house now could cost nearly as much as the house itself. But forecasts call for 2030 to be the tipping point, when lithium-ion battery manufacturing reaches a key level of scalability and power from solar systems can be cost-effectively stored.